of the year. that's to avoid a fiscal cliff which may result in a significant reduction in defense spending. the fiscal cliff is a term used to illustrate drastic fiscal tightening if congress fails to reach an agreement by year's end. such a situation is feared to trigger a plunge in the economy. panetta warned that defense spending will be subject to drastic cuts if lawmakers failed to reach a consensus. >> the worst thing that could happen from my perspective is that they just kick the can down the road. all that would wind up doing is continuing to present a shadow over the defense department and for that matter, the rest of government. >> the defense department is already planning to reduce its budget by about $500 billion over the coming ten years. panetta has voiced concern that further cuts could undermine barack obama's new defense strategy that lays more emphasis on the asia pacific region. >>> japanese officials are scratching their heads about how to deal with sluggish trade. sales to foreign countries have plunged leaving japan in a trade deficit for the fourth straight month.